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Florida Sheriffs Stand Behind Sheriff Gualtieri, Continue to Oppose Open Carry Legislation

December 15, 2015

On Thursday December 10, 2015, Ms. Menzel of The News Service of Florida posted an article entitled, “Police Chiefs Will Back Revised Open Carry Bill.”  In that article, Sheriff Gualtieri is inaccurately quoted and the reporter took his statements out of context.

Today, The News Service of Florida posted a follow up article that provides the full context and statements made by Sheriff Gualtieri which makes it abundantly clear that the initial article did not properly reflect the Sheriff’s comments.  This does not excuse the individuals who took the incorrect information and created a false narrative even beyond the incorrect reporting.

To set the record straight, Sheriff Gualtieri never told the reporter that an officer would be at a “crime scene” and react when seeing a firearm.  His full statement is clear that he was talking about a hypothetical, in-progress situation and the challenges faced by law enforcement officers in determining the law-abiding citizen with a gun from a criminal who could be a potential threat to the officer at a disturbance or other situation. 

Additionally, his full statement clearly demonstrates that the Sheriff’s comment about the hypothetical bank robbery related to the risks of someone open carrying a firearm being a target for the bank robber (not the police).  A person who is concealed carrying would not be in this position and would be in a better tactical position to defend themselves and others under the same circumstances.  While we believe that was clear in the original article, opponents improperly created false and dangerous narratives that have no basis in reality or fact. We see this as nothing more than an attempt to undermine Sheriff Gualtieri and the Association’s rational and sound position on open carry and the concerns for the residents in our State. 

Sheriffs support Sheriff Gualtieri and the work he has been doing on behalf of the Association.  “During the past two legislative sessions, Sheriff Gualtieri has been at the Capitol advocating for sheriffs on numerous bills that would impact public safety,” said Sheriff Sadie Darnell, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association.  “On every issue he has done an amazing job for sheriffs, their deputies as well as all law enforcement officers.  Sheriffs are grateful to have him as the Chair of our Legislative Committee.  Early on I designated Sheriff Gualtieri to be our spokesperson on the issue of open carry so the Florida Sheriffs Association could speak with one voice in expressing our opposition.  Unfortunately, proponents of open carry have tried to personally attack him.  Let me be clear: these baseless and personal attacks against Florida’s Sheriffs are highly inappropriate. In this case the position we have taken as an association is one that we are sure will continue to protect the residents and visitors in our state.”

Past Presidents of the Association including Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton, Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson, Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger, Sumter County Sheriff Bill Farmer, Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar agree with Sheriff Darnell. They say that “Florida Sheriffs are staunch supporters of citizens exercising their 2nd Amendment Rights and encourage all qualified citizens who want to carry a firearm to  get their conceal carry permit, get well trained and carry concealed so they can have a tactical advantage. As past presidents and current members of the Florida Sheriffs Association, we stand together with President Darnell and our Legislative Chair, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, in opposing the proposed open carry legislation because we believe there are better ways to protect the citizens of the state of Florida from felonious life threatening attacks.”

The Florida Sheriffs Association wants to protect the over 1.4 million concealed carry permit holders from not being arrested or prosecuted for inadvertently displaying their weapons.  We do not believe nor agree that the only fix to ensuring our concealed carry permit holders are protected is to allow open carry. Therefore, we ask the Legislature to reject the notion that the only way to protect concealed carry permit holders is to authorize full blown open carry and instead focus on sensible changes to current law to create enhanced protections for our law-abiding citizens who choose to carry concealed. 

The Florida Sheriffs Association believes added protections will ensure that no one is arrested or prosecuted for truly openly displaying their firearm inadvertently.  Sheriffs believe that this solution, and not the open carry legislation as drafted, strikes the right balance of protecting our concealed carry permit holders and while ensuring the public’s safety and we look forward to working with the Legislature to that end.

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The Florida Sheriffs Association is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation made up of the Sheriffs of Florida, approximately 3,500 business leaders and 70,000 citizens throughout the state. Founded in 1893, FSA has quietly served the citizens of Florida by supporting the needs of the state's law enforcement community. Through the Florida Sheriffs Association, Sheriffs are given a forum to address lawmakers to push for positive changes in Florida’s public safety arena. FSA also provides Sheriffs' Offices much-needed programs such as affordable training, special task forces and legislative and legal services. Dedicated to the prevention of juvenile delinquency and the development of lawful, productive citizens, FSA has established and funded the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches with facilities throughout the state to help restore hope, fulfill dreams, and prepare boys and girls for the future. It has grown to be one of the largest and most successful state law enforcement associations in the nation. For more information on the Florida Sheriffs Association, visit [url=http://www.dev.flsheriffs.org]http://www.dev.flsheriffs.org[/url].